Many of the current staff are expected to remain part of the WellStar team, said KSU Vice President of Operations Randy Hinds. In addition, the locations and hours of the student health clinics will remain the same.
The switchover will not cost more for the university since WellStar will function under the current $2.6 million operating budget based on student fees, which will also not increase, Hinds said.
KSU operates three health care facilities to diagnose and treat illnesses for student patients, as well as to provide mental health support and disease prevention. The three facilities handle 20,000 patient visits each year, Hinds said.
The main health clinic located in the University Village is staffed with two physicians, three nurse practitioners and support staff. It has on-site laboratory services.
The university will join the nonprofit WellStar Health System, which includes more than 600 medical providers in more than 100 locations.
And with the addition of WellStar Connect, KSU patient records will be available across the entire network of care providers in the WellStar Health System, including for emergency room visits or appointments with specialists.
“By partnering with a large and well-regarded health system, we instantly have access to expertise and resources that will help us to increase both quality and efficiency,” Hinds said.
With the switch to WellStar, Megan Bowles has been hired as KSU’s new medical director. Bowles joined WellStar a year and half ago with her husband, Travis, who also practices internal medicine and pediatrics in east Cobb.
Bowles received her medical degree from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and completed her residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Bowles previously served as a student health physician at the Vanderbilt University Student Health Center.
“I am excited to return to a practice I enjoy,” Bowles said.
Student patients tackle health concerns
Late adolescence and young adulthood is a great time to intervene in a person’s health, Bowles said, especially because college students are more willing to change their habits than an older adult, who is “stuck in a way of life.”
This includes trying exercise methods instead of taking prescription medication.
“They are in a learning environment, so they are eager to research on websites what they are diagnosed with,” Bowles said.
It is also a critical time medically in a person’s life, Bowles said, since it is the first time patients might present with a disease, like diabetes. It is the perfect time to start a treatment to help control a disease from the beginning, she added.
For diabetes, this treatment includes access to WellStar’s diabetic counselors, nutritionists and eye doctors to “make sure we address issues in a unified front,” Bowles said.
Only KSU students can use the clinics at this time, but for those students, Bowles said, “we want to be your primary care physician.”
KSU has grown tremendously in the last 10 years, including the recent announcement of plans to merge with Southern Polytechnic State University in a year. The fall 2013 enrollment of KSU and SPSU combined is 31,178 students.
Bowles wants KSU’s clinics to be “more than just for acute care (or short-term treatment) while class is in session,” but support chronic disease management or follow-up appointments with students diagnosed with prolonged issues, like high blood pressure and anxiety.
Along with her administrative role, Bowles said she will be seeing patients.
“My role is a clinical role. ... I also think you lead by example,” Bowles said.